As news broke of a van ploughing into pedestrians in Canada, unfounded claims that the suspect was Muslim spread like wildfire across the internet. However, the suspect, Alek Minassian, 25, belonged to one of the stranger off-shoots of the ‘alt-right’ movement who call themselves ‘incels’. The term “incel” is a portmanteau originating from the phrase “involuntary celibate”.
Alek Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of 1st degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder as Canadian authorities try to come to terms with what may be the deadliest attack in the country’s history. Just hours before the Toronto van attack, a post on the Facebook page belonging to Minassian declared “the incel rebellion has already begun, we will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys”; and went on to praise Elliot Rodger: “all hail the supreme gentleman Elliot Rodger.” Elliot Rodger had murdered 6 people in 2014 in California and left behind a lengthy manifesto describing his sexual frustration at not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred towards women in general, and interracial couples in particular.
The incel movement is an online subculture which is deeply misogynistic. Self-identified incels believe that they are excluded from fulfilling their sexual desire because of the way they look. This disturbing movement is yet another strand of increasing online “radicalisation” of young white men, which, to date, has gone largely unchecked. Indeed, the suspect had not been known to the authorities.
There have been calls for the attack to be recognised as an act of far-right terrorism. However in the immediate aftermath, Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, downplayed any possible link to terrorism saying there was no “national security element”. This response together with the media’s modest coverage of one of Canada’s deadliest attacks typifies the prevalent attitude towards far-right terrorism.
Needless to say, if the attack had been labelled as “Islamic terrorism”, leaders from across the world would be lining up to condemn it. Yet these leaders and the world’s media do not appreciate the monster that the far-right has become. Indeed, outgoing head of UK counter-terror policing, Mark Rowley, revealed that there had been four far right terror plots which had been foiled since March 2017 alone. Perhaps the key difference between far-right terrorism and the marginal risk of Islamic terrorism, is that the latter has an industry which depends on perpetuating the panic surrounding it, whilst the former has been bolstered by the establishment with reckless comments about Islam and immigration, allowing the far right to flourish. Unless western media and governments begin to appreciate the extent of this threat, let alone ceasing active contribution towards it, sadly more far right attacks are to be expected.